Tuesday 20th Nov, 2018

Newcastle consultant fees prompt spending row


FIGURES showing consultants received almost $25m to help facilitate the private lease of the Port of Newcastle has prompted a political row.

The figures were contained in a report from the New South Wales Auditor-General’s Office and prompted the Labor Opposition to go on the attack, saying such money would have been better spent on local schools and hospitals.

But the government has hit back, saying Labor was in no position to lecture and the use of consultants was money well spent.

The Auditor General’s report showed the Baird/Berejiklian Government spent $298m on consultants to sell or lease state assets. 

In the case of the Newcastle Port deal, Labor noted major beneficiaries were international corporate firms including: 

  • PricewaterhouseCoopers Accounting and tax advisor $5,592,868
  • Minter Ellison legal advisor $6,082,429
  • Morgan Stanley Aust Ltd financial advisor $7,779,402
  • GHD Pty Ltd Technical engineering advisor $1,369,411  

Labor spokesperson for the Hunter Kate Washington said there were more worthy projects on which to spend money rather than “lining the pockets of big end of town Sydney consultants”. 

“The sale of Newcastle Port has meant lost revenue for the government, and we now see that $25m from the sale was spent on consultant fees,” Ms Washington said.

“Local projects go begging while this Government looks after their mates in the big end of town.” 

Ms Washington said the Port’s sale contract blocked construction of a shipping container terminal, cost the government revenue and cost local jobs with new owners raising shipping fees.

“The government has sacked so many public servants, that they now need to hire consultants to do the same job for a massive fee. The privatisation agenda of this government has failed to deliver for local families.” 

State Treasurer Dominic Perrottet told the DCN the government had generated around $30bn from asset recycling to transform New South Wales with a $73bn infrastructure program.

“To do that, we need the best advice from the best advisors to get the best outcome for the people of NSW,” Mr Perrottet said.

“Labor refuses to come to grips with the fact that these transactions have enabled record investments never before seen in NSW.

“After 16 years of building nothing while in government, Labor has no credibility to speak on matters of funding.

“The NSW Liberals and Nationals will continue to deliver record levels of investment in infrastructure, including vital projects like Newcastle Port and Newcastle Light Rail.”

Meanwhile, Labor MP for Newcastle Tim Crakanthorp said the Government should release details surrounding the deal for the Port of Newcastle privatisation.  

“Twenty-five million would have been better spent investing in services for the people of Newcastle. It should have been invested in addressing overcrowding in our schools, tackling the ballooning waiting lists at local hospitals and getting more police on the ground in our city,” he said.

“This dodgy deal has been shambolic from the start and now the people of Newcastle can see just how costly the whole process was.”

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